Pilot defends airline's training on using rudder in turbulence

October 31, 2002|By Jon Hilkevitch | Jon Hilkevitch,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WASHINGTON - Pilots using rudders may have unwittingly conducted potentially dangerous maneuvers to control aircraft during turbulence, but the risk became clear only after the in-flight breakup of an American Airlines jet last year, a captain at American testified yesterday while defending the carrier's training program.

In the second day of a hearing on the crash of American Flight 587 in New York, the National Transportation Safety Board examined how the airline trains pilots to stabilize aircraft from lateral rolls or side-to-side movements that may place excessive stress on the tail fin.

Investigators believe that a series of hard rudder movements snapped off the plane's tail assembly, but are trying to determine whether actions by the flight crew or a possible design flaw caused the disaster.

Also at the hearing, American Airlines officials and representatives of Airbus Industries, which made the plane involved in the accident, traded charges over who was responsible for the gaps in knowledge among pilots in safely operating rudders.

The Airbus A300 carrying 260 passengers and crew members crashed less than two minutes after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Nov. 12, killing all on board and five people on the ground. The plane's tail fin and its two wing-mounted engines broke off in flight.

American Capt. Delvin Young told the board that the airline amended its advanced aircraft maneuvering program in regard to rudders three months after the Flight 587 crash when the safety board issued a warning about overusing rudders.

American immediately made revisions in technical bulletins and revised testing for pilots, Young said.

Jon Hilkevitch is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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